“Just Don’t Watch It”

As I watch many many many programmes and critique them I inevitably get someone saying the same damn thing:

“Just don’t watch it!”

There are many replies to this, but irritation has worn me down until even I, who am not generally given to swearing, have to ask

“What the fuck do you expect me to watch?!”

Seriously. I’m a gay man who likes to watch the fantastic – primarily Urban fantasy, what do I watch? Because we’ve now reviewed 37 television series from start to finish (or current) and we’ve got two – TWO – with a GBLT protagonist. Lost Girl, headed by a bisexual woman and her true love/primary love interest is already underscored as being a man. And Sanctuary where Helen Magnus is a bisexual woman – you may have missed it though since it was one reference in one episode of 4 seasons – the rest of the time was focused on men. We don’t even have a GBLT person as part of an ensemble cast.

20 of those don’t have even a brief, token GBLT presence. Not for one second, not a bit actor, not a one off, not a thing. Completely and utterly straight from start to finish. Some of them have managed to reach their 5th season without any GBLT people.

4 of them have a GBLT character who appeared for one or two episodes – out of 8 seasons in some cases (yes, Supernatural, that’s you. Though your subtext means the slash fans love you and ignore your erasure) Of course that doesn’t stop these shows have a running commentary of bad gay jokes (Being Human US, Misfits – ye gods Misfits, the very poster child of a hot mess) or used these single episodes to push the horrible tropes (Being Human UK with the gay vampire killing his human lover).

2 of them have a recurring token. But, frankly, that’s generously deciding the Manscaping medieval prince who faints at the sight of blood (the dead Renly) and his lover, the knight of flowers count as tokens rather than one-offs on Game of Thrones. And despite Danny being nothing more than a token who only shows up in one episode in four whenever one of the straight characters needs something, Teen Wolf will always be loved by the slashers (If you want any greater evidence of how this damages us, both Racialicious and Kiss My Wonder Woman have actually praised Teen Wolf for their handling of sexuality while criticising it for its greater inclusion of other marginalised people. Yay for homophobic double standards!)

2 of them have recurring minor characters – but while I love Dark Angel’s Original Cindy, as the series progresses she just becomes more and more of a support character for Max. It’s pure desperation that has me include Bill Forbes 5 episodes on The Vampire Diaries a recurring character – and after his conversion therapy episode I could do without that as well.

So that leaves me with 7 shows with major GBL characters. With the protagonists that brings it to 9 out of 37

And these 7? We have American Horror Story with raped and murdered gay men, raped lesbian and graphic depictions of conversion therapy. Yay. I couldn’t even watch it in one sitting.

Almighty Johnsons has Sjofen, “the goddess who goes both ways” who has a one night, off-camera fling with Axel (a man) when he’s magically turned into woman and then focuses entirely on men from then on – but they make lots of jokes about her.

Hex and it’s many many many many, ye gods many, dead gay men and lesbians. Sometimes the same character died twice.

True Blood which I’ve already complained about.

Bedlam with a closeted character who was finally revealed as gay, had one kiss with a guy before vanishing without explanation.

So, that leaves Warehouse 13 (which, on day, will stop putting Jenks in the plot box and leave the gay jokes behind), Buffy (which wiser folks than I have complained about)

This is the genre I’m watching. This is what I get served up to me. So, again, what the fuck do I watch? What do I watch which doesn’t prompt me to criticise? And this is just criticising on grounds of sexuality – throw in race, gender and ability as well and the hot mess just gets hotter and messier.

There now follows a moment where everyone tells me to watch Glee or Modern Family or some other soap and sitcom, completely ignoring the genre that interests me. It’s ridiculous that when faced with an entire genre of erasure and shit – multiple genres of erasure and shit – the answer is to try different genres! I don’t like sitcoms, I hate soaps, I loathe high school dramas and I don’t remotely see the attraction of musicals. I don’t want to be bored to tears so I can cling to a show that actually realises we exist.

This is the same reason I rarely boycott shows, because I end up boycotting my entire genre and all the shows I have any chance of actually enjoying. Is that depressing? Yes, of course it is – but that’s reality but that’s also why I want to change things.

Which is why I won’t “stop watching it”. I will keep watching it. I will keep watching it and I will find the parts I enjoy and I will continue trying to be part of the genre I love. And I will continue banging on the window when they try to shut me out, continue shouting when I’m missed and demand that it be better, that it does better. For me to stop watching it would be for me to finally give up on the genre, for me to decide it can’t be fixed and needs to be rebuilt before I get involved again – I’ve already done that with some book genres, and it wounds me to feel driven to it.

This genre has a problem with marginalised people. MY genre has a problem with marginalised people. And it’s not going to be fixed by closing my eyes and pretending the problems don’t exist. Nor will it be solved by anyone who is hurt by these problems being driven away by people demanding our silence, demanding we “just don’t watch it.”

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A Semi-Coherent Rant on Homoerotic Subtext

This is something I’ve talked about before with reference to the Bromance in Teen Wolf. But that was through moderate, restrained and I’m done with that. My temper has snapped and it’s time for a rant.

I am bloody sick over the fawning over shows because of their pathetic subtext. Call it slashwink. Call it “queerbait.” Call it homo-bromance. Call it what you will, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it being used as a complete replacement for actual GBLTQ content or characters. I’m sick of the massive praise and joy of the latest hint of homoerotic subtext with barely a breath of criticism of the complete and utter erasure those show actually have.

And enough with the fucking “fanon” wish-fulfilment. Slash fans over and over again pretending that the characters are being presented as “bisexual really so it’s INCLUSIVE honest” – of course because it makes their thrice damned ONE TRUE PAIRING canonically possible. Stop! Your desperate attempt to morph the show to fit your fantasy doesn’t make it inclusive or real. Desperately trying to cast Dean as bisexual as canon? Really? And there is no damn indication on the show that Stiles is bisexual (no, Word of Gay doesn’t count, especially when it’s “could maybe, sorta, possibly” slashbait). And if one more person asks me “How did he get the numbers of all those drag queens?” as some kind of proof of his bisexuality, I’m going to scream. He has the numbers because the writers wanted to make a recurring homophobic joke, you clueless fetishists! So they could drag up the drag queens whenever they thought they could get a cheap freaking laugh out of it. The same damn reason they had Stiles fake!come out to his father so he could hit back with a gay joke. It’s not like they didn’t do it before – Scott and Danny dancing, appropriating the hundreds of gay teens who have been evicted from proms for daring not to be closeted – remember that? Yes, mere mention of TEH GAY is considered funny – it’s a homophobic convention that’s been going on since the 60s, if not earlier. Yes it’s old and yes it should have died but it keeps on going – not least  because of slashers grabbing them and jumping up and down with glee over a tired, homophobic, trope.

And don’t tell me that the people who are uncritically squeeing and fawning and praising are the exception. They’re not, they’re really not and, just like with the m/m genre, there’s a distinct lack of criticism of this bullshit and a lot of hostility towards those – especially gay and bi men – who presume to do so. Challenging this subtext is not even slightly the norm.

And yes, the use of subtext instead of inclusion IS BECAUSE OF YOU! Slash is part of the cause! Stop wringing your hands and pretending that slash fandom bears no responsibility for this! That it’s unknown and hidden and why would anyone ever try to direct things at you, the great big secret?! It’s ridiculous to pretend that slash isn’t part of this and then turn round in the same damn breath and be so bloody happy that ZOMG the slashers being TWEETED by the writers of a show and isn’t it amazing?! Or how this actor acknowledged an OTP! Or how you all mobbed a show creator on Twitter and now he’s talking about your pairing! ZOMG!

The writers, the actors, the networks they know about slash. This isn’t new! Or shouldn’t be to you by now! They play to it, all of them. They write the little moments like Stiles passing out on Derek or Castiel talking about his “profound bond” with Dean because they know you’ll lap it up. They produce vids like Tyler Hoechlin cuddling up with Dylan O’Brien on that boat or scenes at conventions like Misha Collins pretending to kiss Sebastian Roche because they know it’s throwing red meat to a large and loud portion of their fanbase. You are having an effect. You are a market they are playing to – and they are playing to you WITHOUT being inclusive because that is sufficient for you.

And don’t tell me this slash fandom is somehow making progress. Supernatural has been running for 8 freaking seasons. Eight. It has openly acknowledged slash in its own canon since season 4. Actual inclusion? Virtually non-existent. Bit characters, usually for comic relief. And why should they do more? They don’t need to be inclusive, and the “offense” risk that brings, because they’ve got a legion of slash fans ready and eager to scream “ZOMG BEST GAY THING EVAH!”

Why make tokens for inclusion cookies anymore? You just have to have hot 2 guys share a lingering look and a gazillion fans will jump up and down panting and hail you as more gay friendly than a rainbow full of glitter covered unicorns. The writers, actors, producers et al are HEARING you, they hear what you’re saying, they see what you’re writing. Congrats, you have been noticed.

But what they’re hearing you say is not “inclusion of GBLTQ people is important,” they’re hearing you say “ZOMG my hot fetish is so hot! Mooooar subtext, rawr!” because that is what you’re saying. Even the protests to make GBLTQ characters canon isn’t “we need some better representation of under-represented GBLTQ characters” it’s far more “MY OTP IS HAWT! I WANT TO SEE IT!”. No-one’s complaining about there being only one GBLTQ character on Teen Wolf and him an under-used token – they’re complaining because they want to see their hawt STEREK!

They’re listening to you – but what the slash community is demanding only pretends to be GBLTQ friendly.

These shows aren’t improving with your slashing. Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Sherlock, Vampire Diaries, Hawaii Five-0, Merlin (and how many others – Being Human UK & US? Grimm? A gazillion more fandom staples) – how many GBLTQ Protagonists? How about main recurring characters?

And this is not only damaging on the inclusion on these shows but it’s also damaging on both criticism and expectation. I’ve seen 2 blogs criticise Teen wolf – rightly – about its crappy depiction of women (we agree, we did too) and it’s awful depiction of race (we agree – and wrote a piece but then Racialicious released their piece a day before, curse our schedule!) and both PRAISED Teen Wolf for its depiction of gay characters. That should be character, of course, single – Danny who only shows up when straight people need something and then for the briefest moment. But hey, he wasn’t been beaten to a pulp! PRO GAY GUYS!!!! This is how low our expectations are – but hey, we got the slashwinks right?

And I’m bloody sick of being asked about boycotting shows for their failed inclusion by people who are loving the damn slashwink bullshit (and completely ignoring GBLTQ erasure in those same shows) – have you seen our watch list? If we boycotted the erased series we wouldn’t have watched half of them – if we don’t include the blatant tokens only a tiny fraction are left!

And don’t even dare to say “baby steps” to me because I am done with that. It is 2012 it’s time to grow the fuck up and start striding – or, since we’ve got so far to catch up – bloody sprinting. We have a media culture that can manage to produce Captain Jack Harkness and openly gay school kids on Glee (for all the many many things wrong with that show), True Blood (for all its many problems) can fit in several gay characters, Lost Girl can have a bisexual protagonist (yes it has problems, but it and Torchwood remain the only programmes I’ve watched not aimed at a GBLTQ audience that actually has us as protagonists). Don’t tell me Supernatural just cannot cannot cannot possibly manage an actual gay character or Teen Wolf couldn’t pull out Danny from the plot box now and then or the Vampire Diaries couldn’t manage a gay character who isn’t putting his straight daughter through torturous conversion therapy while she screams that she’s born this way (yeah that was really fucked up, by the way). Screw your damn baby steps, subtext isn’t a baby step, it’s not even standing still – it’s a great big step backwards to a time when hints were all we can manage. It isn’t the 90s anymore, let’s stop settling for it.

All in all, I am so bloody sick of slashers revelling in, praising and supporting the subtext and completely ignoring or hand waving the erasure and the tokenism. And I am sick of these shows that continually erase us or token us throwing out this subtext and calling it inclusion. We deserve better than this.